Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Take the Greensboro Historic District Quiz!

People react in different ways when I tell them I live in a historic district. They often say, "I love old houses," or "I hate old houses." One nice lady, when I told her I served on the Historic District Commission, kindly shared her opinion that "you people are crazy." And she is a homeowner in one of the districts.

A lot of people object to the degree of regulation in the districts. But when I ask which regulations they don't like, it often turns out that they don't actually know what the regulations are.

So I thought it would be fun to offer a little online quiz about what actually is permitted -- and what's not -- in Greensboro's locally-designated historic districts. If you're a historic district hater, or just a skeptic, take the quiz to see how much you actually know. If you like, post your answers in the comments. (No fair peeking at the Historic District Guidelines!)

UPDATE: Answers are now posted!


1 All of Greensboro's historic districts are regulated by the Greensboro Historic District Commission (HDC).
False. Greensboro has a lot of neighborhoods that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the A&T College Historic District, the Bennett College Historic District, Irving Park, Guilford College, and the White Oak New Town historic district (to name just a few), none of which are regulated at all. Only Fisher Park, College Hill, and the Aycock Historic District are locally-designated districts which fall under the jurisdiction of the HDC.

2 If you live in one of the locally-designated historic districts, your house colors must be approved by the HDC.
False. Although the Historic District Program Manual and Design Guidelines contain some helpful advice for those wishing to paint their houses in an historically-accurate way, owners are free to paint their houses any way they like.

3 It is not permitted to cover original wood siding with vinyl or aluminum siding in the locally-designated historic districts.

4 New construction in the locally-designated districts must use historically appropriate materials; new products such as fiber-cement siding are not permitted.
False. Many new materials such as fiber-cement siding (also called hardi-plank) are permitted in new construction, although they are not considered appropriate as replacement materials for original historic materials such as wood, brick, or stone.

5 New houses in the locally-designated districts must be designed and built to look like the houses surrounding them.
False. Although new construction in the historic districts is required to be compatible with surrounding buildings in terms of size, setbacks, and roof forms, most new houses built there would never be mistaken for old houses; in fact, it's considered desirable by many preservationists that new houses shouldn't "fool" the public by looking too much like old ones.

6 It is not considered appropriate to paint previously unpainted brick or masonry in the locally-designated districts.
True. One reason for this is that once brick is painted, it can never really be unpainted again, and thus never restored to its original condition.

7 Prefabricated outbuildings such as sheds are not permitted in the locally-designated districts.

False. Many prefabricated sheds are considered appropriate and can be used, although metal sheds and those with gambrel roofs ("dutch barn" style) are not.

8 Large trees may not be cut down in the locally-designated districts without permission from the HDC.

True. The tree canopies in the historic districts are an important character-defining feature of the neighborhoods. When the HDC grants permission to take down a mature tree, it often requires the homeowner to plant another one like it.

9 Major interior renovations require permission from the HDC to insure historical appropriateness.

False. Interior renovations are not regulated by HDC.

10 Chain-link fences are prohibited in the locally-designated districts.

False. Chain-link fences are permitted at the rear of houses, but not in front or side yards.

11 You must receive permission from the HDC when planting trees, shrubs, or hedges.

False. Plant away freely.

12 Historic buildings in the historic districts are protected from demolition.

False. If a property owner wishes to demolish a building, the HCD only has power to delay the demolition for 365 days.

13 The tight regulation in the locally-designated districts drives away investment.

False. Several studies have shown that property values in Greensboro's historic districts have risen at a faster rate than that of the city as a whole over the past 20 years.

14 The zoning restrictions in the locally-designated districts are more stringent than those in modern suburban developments.

False. Many things are permitted in the historic districts, such as chain-link fences, prefabricated outbuildings, and unregulated landscaping, which are prohibited or controlled by restrictive covenants in many new neighborhoods. In fact, in some new developments, the neighborhood association has the right to remove items from your property which the association considers unsightly or inappropriate; this is not true in the historic districts.

Furthermore, Greensboro's historic districts all contain a variety of zoning types, including single and multifamily residential, office, business, and retail. Most new developments are restricted to single-family housing, often with minimum square-footage requirements.

15 The people who live in the locally-designated districts are a little bit nutty.

True. But so are the people who don't.


Roch101 said...

I didn't peek, and it will probably show:

1. T
2. F
3. F
4. F
5. T
6. T
7. T
8. F
9. F
10. T
11. F
12. T
13. F
14. F
15. T

Anonymous said...

Before I play, what is the prize for winning?

And #15 was a throwaway, right?


David Wharton said...

If you win, you get to be Chair For A Day at the HDC!

(just kidding)

You can't play, anyway, Hoggard, since you've submitted about 500 COA's.

Rob Ainbinder said...

Just let me know before a Sears kit house gets demolished. If the timing is right maybe my family can save it and move in.